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Mayor wants to increase fines for reckless cyclists, motorists

Mayor wants to increase fines for reckless cyclists, motorists

Five years ago, then-Mayor Richard M. Daley threw the book at reckless motorists who endanger bicycle riders amid demands that he do the same to “cowboy cyclists.”

On Wednesday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel plans to do both.

The even-handed ordinance Emanuel plans to introduce at a City Council meeting would raise fines for cyclists who disobey the city’s traffic laws — from $25 for all offenses to $50-to-$200, depending on the severity of the violation.

The mayor’s plan also would double — to $1,000 — the fine imposed against motorists who open their doors without looking into the path of cyclists. The fine for leaving a car door open in traffic would also double — to $300.

Last year, there were 1,675 bicycle crashes in Chicago, 250 of them so-called “dooring” accidents.

In an attempt to reduce those bone-crunching accidents that send cyclists flying, City Hall is launching an awareness campaign to remind taxicab passengers of the need to look before they open passenger doors.

Stickers to be placed on the rear passenger windows of all 7,000 Chicago taxicabs were designed by MINIMAL design studios.

Neill Townshend, a 32-year-old MINIMAL employee, was killed last fall while biking to work on the Near North Side. He was hit by a semi-trailer after swerving to avoid an open car door.

Ron Burke, executive director of the Active Transportation Alliance, applauded the mayor for his even-handed approach to making Chicago streets safer and his particular emphasis on preventing “dooring” accidents.

“With more and more people cycling in Chicago [and bike-sharing on the way], it’s imperative that motorists look for cyclists before opening car doors. This needs to become second nature,” he said.

Burke acknowledged that the city currently issues few tickets and mostly warnings against cyclists who text while riding and blow through red lights and that the higher penalties likely mean more tickets.

“We support that 100 percent. One of our over-arching goals is to see fewer crashes and injuries. One important way to do that is to issue tickets. Enforcement is crucial,” Burke said.

Emanuel’s decision to create a ground-breaking network of protected bike lanes in Chicago has increased tensions between cyclists, motorists and pedestrians.

But Burke said, “It’s not so much bikes vs. cars vs. pedestrians. Unfortunately, there’s a percentage of the population that travels recklessly — whether it’s on foot, on bike or driving a car. The Active Transportation Alliance supports increased traffic fines [across the board] as an important way to improve safety.”

In a news release, Emanuel argued that “everyone is safer” when traffic laws are obeyed.

“If they are sharing the roadway with vehicles, cyclists must obey all traffic laws, including yielding to pedestrians, stopping at traffic signals and indicating when they are making turns,” he said.

“By increasing the fines for failing to obey the law, cyclists will behave more responsibly, increasing safety and encouraging others to ride bikes.”

Like Daley, Emanuel is an avid cyclist who campaigned on a promise to make Chicago the nation’s most “bike-friendly” city.

Emanuel installed Chicago’s first, of what he promised would be 100 miles of protected bike lanes over four years less than a month after taking office.

The city now has 204.1 miles of on-street bike ways. That includes: 18.6 miles of protected or buffered bike lanes; 134.2 miles of standard bike lanes and 39.8 miles of marked shared lanes.

Protected bike lanes are expected to be installed this summer on Milwaukee and on Clybourn.

More than 20,000 people bike to work each day to jobs in downtown Chicago. That’s a 200 percent increase since 2005, according to City Hall.

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Sounds like another tax.

You're funny

Jason said:

Sounds like another tax.

Holy crap! If I'm reading this correctly or if Ron Burke wasn't mis-quoted I'm not sure I'll be renewing my ATA membership. I'm all for safety but there are certainly non-reckless ways to go through a red light. It makes no sense to sit at a red light, or come to a complete stop at a stop sign if there is no cross traffic with the right of way.

We need to get the Idaho stop law in Illinois, pronto.

I wonder how vigorously this will be enforced and what kind of impact it will have-- especially the increased fines for dooring.  Some of the most serious client injuries we've dealt with at our firm have resulted from dooring accidents, and I still don't think there is a very high level of awareness of the problem.  

Yes we do.

Madopal (7.6 mi) said:

We need to get the Idaho stop law in Illinois, pronto.

How did Mayor Daley "throw the book" at reckless motorists five years ago? I must have missed that news.


I'm really looking forward to the day that I read a bike-related news article without someone being described as an "avid cyclist". Or at least I'd like to have the phrase "avid driver" used to describe every person who complains about their motor vehicle rights being allegedly impacted.


We support people getting tickets if they are disobeying the law, whether they are driving or biking. We're not calling for a crack down on people on bikes.

As an advocacy organization, we simply can't say "It's OK for people on bikes to blow red lights".

Ron's quotes refer to across the board enforcement. We certainly hope this doesn't push you to drop your membership, we do greatly value your support and your voice. My conversations with you over the past few years have been great in terms of push back, feedback and insight.

We posted a blog about this and Ron wants to add some language to it to clarify his quotes a bit more. Our position on ticketing is focused on equal enforcement and for the most egregious and reckless offenses.

Thanks so much,

Ethan Spotts, Active Trans

It would have been nice if the Idaho Stop Law was tucked into this probably would look more balanced from a cyclist perspective and would be overlooked by the media because of the distractions with the other content of the bill. It seems like trying to pass something like the Idaho Stop Law outright would be met with a lot of attention and objection. The stickers in cabs is great though. Chicago Tribune is running this front page with the Headline "Hike Fines For Bicyclist who Break Traffic Laws" and I'm sure John Kass is/will start pooping out of his mouth again.
Madopal (7.6 mi) said:

We need to get the Idaho stop law in Illinois, pronto.

This is only city ordinance.  While it might be nice to include an "Idaho Stop" provision in the ordinance, it would only apply to the City of Chicago.

It already applies to the Chicago Police.  Why not share it around?

That said I rode home on Dearborn yesterday evening and noticed no one was following the red signal that specifically applies to bikes.

makes sense.  

Cameron 7.5 mi said:

I've had my differences with ATA lately, but in this case I agree with them. Respect gets respect and especially with the spring thaw there are a lot of people ridding like idiots out there. Unfortunately, the bad apples are the most visible. The guy wearing headphones on a brakeless fixie who weaves around pedestrians to blow a red light at a high traffic intersection just became the most memorable cyclist of the day to a lot of people whom he just endangered. He did something wrong and deserves a ticket. Arguing otherwise is condoning bad ridding. You don't see may drivers lining up to defend a driver who gets a ticket for running a red light, why should cyclists be different?


Instead of debating whether cyclists are ruining the roads for drivers or drivers are ruining the roads for cyclists, it's time to talk about bad cyclists and bad drivers who are ruining the road for everyone. There are minorities in both groups that are the source of a lot of conflicts and animosity. Even handed enforcement could improve everyone's experience.



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